Wagga a cradle of innovation
LIKE an evangelist at the pulpit, Simone Eyles speaks with the fervour of a true believer.
Her gospel is not rooted in the past, but the present and the future.
“Innovation is improving the way you do something; technology is removing the geographical barriers,” she says.
The founder of Wagga-brewed coffee app 365 Cups and unofficial ambassador for regional start-ups, Ms Eyles’ enthusiasm is contagious.
Thoughts jostle for space in her head and sentences often collide out of her mouth, but make no mistake, hers is a mind perfectly calibrated to a goal.
That goal is to help establish Wagga as Australia’s regional start-up capital, a kind of mini-Silicon Valley in the bush.
What seemed a pipe dream a few short years ago now seems within reach.
Ms Eyles has blazed the path and others have followed.
People like Meredith and Jessie from local business Dough Re Mi, two mums who started baking cookies for their kids’ pre-school and are now shipping them all over Australia.
Five years ago, they would have had to sink a quarter of a million dollars into a bricks and mortar shop and sign a long lease.
The web is now their shop and the business is so successful, they’ve reached their five-year target in four months and are now hiring helpers.
The internet has made the world a much smaller place and yet a much larger marketplace.
The emergence of the NBN has made conference calling and digital marketing far easier.
Meanwhile, surging house prices in the capital cities are forcing young professionals to think regional.
This all means Wagga, once a byword for ockerism, is now garnering national attention as a cradle of innovation.
We have a tightly woven network of start-up entrepreneurs who support each other and extol the virtues of Wagga to the world.
And the world is listening.
This week, the Commonwealth Bank chose Wagga as one of the first stops for its Pop-Up Innovation Lab.
CEOs from major ASX 200 companies are making flying visits here to see what all the fuss is about.
And in home offices across the city, fledgling entrepreneurs are daring to dream.